Tools for a Revolution

I’d like to bring to your attention an article I’ve written for Issue #3 of Contents Magazine, which tells part of an ongoing story of how millions of people across the world whose multiple grievances are not being heard by their respective leaders are using the tools they’ve grown up with to organise mass peaceful protests and to capture events–no matter how appalling–in real-time.

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Order your diagram prints from Society6

After having to disappoint literally ten people who asked if I had any plans to sell prints of my diagrams, I’ve finally bowed to the pressure.

One of the primary reasons for my long-standing reluctance was the thought of organising the printing, handling and distribution of the prints myself. Getting to the stage where I’d be on first name terms with the Post Office cashiers as I negotiated another shipment of thundersticks to a far flung land didn’t exactly fill me with much enthusiasm.

So when I stumbled upon these fine folks at Society6 and realised I could get away with placing any would-be customer in their capable hands, I finally got excited by the whole idea. You see, when you or I buy a product from Society6′s stable of ridiculously talented artists from around the world, they handle the production, packaging and shipping on the artist’s behalf. I know. I’ve rubbed my eyes a few times now and it still reads the same.

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Ending 18 years of self-exile from the stage

I’d long considered public speaking to be a domain other people inhabited. That was, however, until the beginning of this year when I drew up a longlist of things that would take me out of my comfort zone, only to find that speaking in public occupied no less than three items.

I waited until the very last hour before making my submission for CS Forum 2011 before gasping in an equal measure of delight and horror weeks later upon seeing my name and mugshot amongst some of our industry’s most celebrated pracitioners. My mind rapidly turned to the question of how I was going to close an 18-year speaking gap between a school production and an international conference.

So imagine my relief when the chance arose to deliver a 5-minute lightning talk at the inaugural London Content Strategy Meetup event “Wrapping up Confab, unwrapping CS Forum”. I now had an excellent opportunity to put myself through the ordeal of speaking and see how I react under the pressure.

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Help shape my next diagram

As a final flourish to my last post, in which I shone a little light on the process I followed to create ‘Partners for the content strategist’, I whimsically floated the idea of getting the wider online content community (I’m sure there’s a better term than that) involved in the conception and development of a similar diagram. On reflection, I realised this wasn’t such a bad idea at all.

Often, what moves me to pick up a pen and doodle is the need to solve a problem using pictures, or its to help stimulate my brain to reveal unrealised and surprising connections and relationships, often between people and tasks. The trouble is, I’m all too aware that the finished diagrams only offer a single viewpoint – that of my own. I think I’d be interested to see now what we can conjure up together as a community. I know the end result will be all the richer as a result of your input.

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‘Partners’ diagram: my workings out

Because my diagrams are almost always born out of a desire to solve a problem or align certain things in my own mind I’m more than aware that a diagram such as ‘Partners for the content strategist’ is unlikely to sit comfortably with everyone. So, to help you understand why I came to certain conclusions and shed a little light on my process, I thought I’d show you my workings out.

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Diagram: Partners for the content strategist

When every facet, subset, and silo is boiled down the task of understanding how an organisation can be effective with their content is, in essence, what content strategy is all about: everything we do is driven and measured by it.

Working out why and how an organisation’s content needs to change cannot be achieved without three key considerations: the status and potential of the content itself, the platform that supports its delivery, and the people involved in its creation. The potentially dizzying amount of skills and responsibilities this requires means the content strategist must seek out all the available knowledge within an organisation, capture it, and use it effectively. Clear communication, a respect for each other’s skills and time, and a shared common goal can help forge the working partnerships that make such changes possible.

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Content lessons from our distant past

The same way you cannot just overthrow an old system of government and traditions without first looking at how many of those traditions defined their people and kept them in check, you shouldn’t be in such a huge rush to disregard and haul out that rotten, slow, and one-dimensional CMS without finding out the reasons why, from the people that use it day in day out, how it came to be so.

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Web content in perpetual motion

How, in this modern world of furious digital content production and management, can we encourage and harness this inherent drive to create and analyse? You can’t go far wrong by bringing a sense of order and perpetual motion to proceedings. Following a continuous process of analysis, preparation, creation, and governance offers us an ideal way of producing consistently lean, user-focused, and bottom-line-affecting content for the web.

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